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Home > The Sage Who Transcended Samsara

149 A Leisurely Time in Jianghu

 Heat that rose in waves carried the aroma of the simmering soup. With scattered green vegetable leaves as garnish, the fine noodles delighted all senses.

With absolute disregard for his image, Meng Qi squatted before a noodle stall, and devoured a bowl of noodle soup, voraciously and constantly emitting slurping sounds as he did so.

He finished his soup noodles with a gusty gurgle and licked his lips peckishly. Then he turned to the noodle stall owner and called out, "I'll have another!"

The rumors from Jianghu were true. Qinshan city's greatest delicacy was none other than the Dragon Whisker noodles, and the tastiest hailed from Old Xie's noodle stall outside Six Fan School. Having tried it for himself today, he could confirm that its reputation was well-deserved. It checked all the boxes for every aspect of the perfect noodle!

"Of course!" Old Xie answered enthusiastically. Deftly handling the soup base, he casually asked, "Young man, are you waiting for the newest Tian Di Ranking List of Young Masters? You do not seem quite the type."

Spring had just ended, and summer was beginning. As such it was still a tad chilly at the brink of dawn. Out of habit, Meng Qi took a breath, clasped his hands together and asked, "How so?" A smile adorned his face the entire time.

He didn't mind at all that Old Xie was merely a hawker selling noodles on the street and returned the question naturally. He was not like the Jianghu bandits, who filled up the other seats, and only cared to brag and look down on Old Xie.

Doing business outside the Six Fan School meant Old Xie frequently met members of Jianghu, and it was rare for him to meet a young man as gentlemanly as Meng Qi. Old Xie laughed gleefully and said, "Young man, you carry a sword around your waist and a large bag on your back. The baggage seems to hold other weapons. If I am not mistaken, you must be a young swordsman from Jianghu. But the rest are prideful. They would rather stand and wait for a seat than squat down to eat. Only ruffians and coolies from the pier do this."

"But... given those dashing good looks, are you perhaps a child from a rich family?"

Meng Qi chuckled and said, "You've got it, I'm a ruffian all right."

Since nobody here knew of his identity, what was the point of maintaining his image? Could it possibly compare to such mouth-watering Dragon Whisker noodles?

Of course, if someone were to recognize him, he would have to keep up the image of a conceited young swordsman.

He was beautiful and refined, accentuated by his green robes and official's cap, soft and smooth wig, and the Ice Palace Sword that hung around his waist. Had he not been shoveling food down his throat noisily while squatting before a noodle stall, he would have most definitely been assumed to be a child from an aristocratic family.

After he and Jiang Zhiwei had gone their separate ways, Meng Qi had headed down south by boat, passing through Xi prefecture and Long prefecture, until he reached Qinshan City which lay at the common boundary of southern Long prefecture, northeastern Huan prefecture and northwestern Hua prefecture. He had planned to first follow the route to the east and check out the Zhen Wu Sect in the south of Hua prefecture and north of Ning prefecture. After that, he would freeload off Zhang Yuanshan for a couple of days enjoying food and drinks and chatting with each other. Then he would make a detour into Huan prefecture where he would search for Qi Zhengyan in Zhou county. Qi Zhengyan had been sent to a small town near Zhou county to take charge of certain issues. As a renowned individual, Zhang Yuanshan was already subject to much criticism, especially with his family pressuring him. Wasn't it more comfortable to enjoy eating and drinking with the relatively unrestrained Zheng Qiyan?

This area was a continuation of Huan prefecture's landforms. Mountains were steep and precipitous, rapids were abundant, and resources were tucked away in the depths of the mountains. Travelling merchants had an arduous time. Thus, the locals were dauntless, but martial arts was not widespread there. Qin mountain, the nearby Zhou mountain and Qi water were thus known as the "Three Mountains and Four Waters".

Hearing Meng Qi's response, Old Xie shook his head smiling, evidently not taking it seriously. He scooped some Dragon Whisker noodles into a bowl for Meng Qi and topped it off with a spiced corned egg.

"Thanks." Meng Qi received the noodles and helped himself, once again sitting on his haunches in front of the noodle stall and wolfing down his meal. He kept watching the main gate of the Six Fan School from the corner of his eye.

As martial arts flourished, the roles of the constables of the Great Jin Dynasty and the North Zhou Dynasty were quickly differentiated from those of the government. They formed the Six Fan School which stood on equal footing with the government, and the two performed their duties in complementary areas.

Meng Qi had heard that the headquarters of the Six Fan School in Luo Yang would be putting up the latest Tian Di Ranking List of Young Masters in Qinshan City. So he had come early to wait and see if his name would be on the list, and to see what his nickname might be.

The royal family, aristocratic families and different clans of the Great Jin Dynasty were similar in strength, and thus had great control over all prefectures and counties, as well as perfect communication networks using birds and horses. A few masters of the Exterior also had exceptional skills; they were adept at the remote exchanging of information after the convergence of their Inner and Outer Realms. Coupled with many different individuals who came from different walks of life, the headquarters of Six Fan School thus claimed, "Information about the Tian Di Ranking List of Young Masters will reach the city within three days and will be known throughout the county seat in seven days."

Still slurping away, Meng Qi squatted on the ground. He stared at the main gate while munching on his noodles, resembling a lazy slob from the streets with nothing better to do.

"Young sir, is the Tian Di Ranking List of Young Masters still not out yet?" A series of thudding sounds brought two yellowish brown horses to a stop in front of Meng Qi. On one of the horses rode a sweet-voiced young lady who appeared petite and delicate, with a very likeable countenance.

On the other horse sat a young man with a long sword on his back. His hair was tied up with a hero's cloth, and he looked perfectly immaculate and tidy in his black robes. His sharp eyebrows highlighted his angular face.

The manner in which the duo had questioned him clearly reflected how they had taken Meng Qi for a mere onlooker from Jianghu.

Meng Qi gulped down a few mouthfuls of soup. Then staring at the two, he shook his head and said, "I did not see it being posted."

Before he could finish his sentence, two doors on the left of Six Fan School were suddenly opened. A constable clad in red clothes, a black hat and a long blade at his waist came walking out with a piece of yellow paper in his hands.

With a rumble, excitement erupted amongst the men of Jianghu seated at the noodle stall. Some hurriedly paid for their meals, while others rushed over without a second's thought. It seemed like they wanted to know of their rankings as quickly as possible, so they could return speedily to negotiate their fees.

"What's the point of running so quickly? Would those who could actually make the list come down to see their names in person?" The young man with the hero cloth looked at these average Jianghu men with contempt.

The dainty little lady giggled and said, "They are just curious. I am also rather eager to know how the list has changed this time. Who knows, maybe some grandmaster or young hero has suddenly risen up the ranks?"

"Oh, I see. Let us go over as well then." The young man spoke to her kindly.

The two hopped off their steeds and tied them to a hitching post. With only a bit of their Lightness Skill, they managed to get over majority of the masses, and snatch positions at the front.

"Young sir, you actually run quite fast." The young lady had only just noticed Meng Qi who was holding his bowl of noodles, eating as he walked, yet was ahead of the crowd.

Meng Qi stopped his slurping for a moment and set his chopsticks down. He seemed to smile as he said, "The members of Jianghu nicknamed me Fleet-footed."

Fleet-footed... The petite lady furrowed her brows. That was a strange nickname.

The young man sniffed loudly. He scoffed, "How can a nobody like you have a nickname?"

Meng Qi did not explain. He chuckled to himself as he strode up to the screen wall, then scrutinized it carefully. The Celestial Rankings had not changed in many years, whereas for the Terrestrial Rankings, his master had ranked within the top 60.

After he was done checking the Terrestrial Rankings, he switched over to the screen wall with the Ranking List of Young Masters. The delicate young lady, the young man with the hero scarf and most of the Jianghu heroes from before gathered here. To them, the gods of the Celestial Rankings and the experts of the Terrestrial Rankings were way beyond their league. They were satisfied with just taking a glance and knowing about the situation; the important one was the Ranking List of Young Masters. That was what many of them were competing for!

"'Invisible Sword' He Jiu, 'Ledgerkeeper of Lives' Wang Siyuan, 'King of Wolves' Tie Shen, 'Demoness of Grand Luo' Gu Xiaosang, 'Infinity Blade' Yan Chong, 'Buddha's Palm' Xuan Zhen, 'Happy Mendicant' Xing Yi, 'Modest Deity of the Earth' Cao E, 'Shocking Hundred Miles' Jiang Hengchuan, 'Fairy of the Extinctive Sword' Jiang Zhiwei. Wow, Jiang Zhiwei from the Sword Washing Pavilion has only just entered Jianghu and she is already in the top ten!" As someone read aloud several names and nicknames, gasps of surprise and awe were audible from the crowd.

The name 'Jiang Zhiwei' had long been known to members of Jianghu thanks to the disciples of Sword Washing Pavilion who had gone out to travel, as well as the elders of various clans who had watched the competition of skills amongst new stars. However, nobody had expected her to enter the top ten ranks within a month! It was a truly shocking feat.

A second look at her accomplishments on the battlefield left everyone speechless. "Sun-mirroring Evil Sword" was a well-established master of the heterodox. However, while he always failed to overcome the hurdle of the Half-step Exterior Scenery, still with his Nine Aperture opened and was armed with experience. To be confronted by and killed in a battle against Jiang Zhiwei spoke volumes of her strength, and other records of her battles only further substantiated this point.

"This is my first time seeing someone who has only opened Six Apertures enter the top ten," gasped the little lady with her eyes wide in amazement.

The young man grinned. He said, "'Outer-sky God Sword' Su Wuming Senior entered the top ten when he had only opened Six Apertures too. The apprentice takes after her master."

The Ranking List of Young Masters had two conventions: those who had reached the age of 35 or attained the Half-step Exterior Scenery would naturally be excluded from the rankings, thus those in the top nine ranks were experts who had opened Eight or Nine Apertures. Jiang Zhiwei's Six Apertures was very striking. Breaking through the Hidden Latch of Life and Death and ascending the stairway to heaven was the most challenging aspect of Enlightening the Apertures and achieving the Exterior. In comparison, if one had a solid foundation, the convergence of Inner and Outer Realms would be much easier. Therefore, those who had reached the Half-step Exterior Scenery were not ranked in the Ranking List of Young Masters.

Of course, everyone believed that the young and talented top ten members on the Ranking List of Young Masters had the potential to compete for the attainment of the Half-step Exterior Scenery.

"Heroine Jiang must be a cold, unfeeling swordswoman dedicated to her sword, just like her senior Su Wuming." The dainty lady spoke as though she had seen Jiang Zhiwei in the flesh before.

"Er..." Meng Qi really wanted to speak up for Jiang Zhiwei. "Sorry to disappoint you, but she is not cold and unfeeling at all".

"What? You do not believe so?" The girl asked rather unhappily. She had very sharp ears and picked up the hesitation in Meng Qi's voice.

The young man tried to pitch in to support her. He added, "Only a swordsman dedicated to the sword could possess such terrifying swordsmanship at the level of Six Apertures. Although everyone claims swordswoman Jiang to be remarkably stunning, a cool beauty is a beauty nevertheless."

"Sure." Meng Qi responded with indifference.

Now that the young lady had won the argument, she appeared very much delighted. She pointed at the Ranking List of Young Masters and said with a sigh, "It is frustrating that out of the top ten, only three are not from the major influential clans and aristocratic families. That is why I admire Hero Yan and Hero Jiang most."

"Infinite Blade" Yan Chong came from a small sect, and "Shocking Hundred Miles" Jiang Hengchuan was a lone wolf from Jianghu. Entering the top ten ranks was scarcely an easy task for them. Similar to them was "King of Wolves" Tie Sheng who was an expert hailing from the Northern plains.

"Indeed, those two are our role models." Many heroes of the Jianghu nodded in agreement. That was when someone called out, "Shaolin has ended the Xuan generation and begun the Zhen generation for seven or eight years already. Why has not a single member of the Zhen generation been ranked?"

According to Shaolin's rules, all disciples had to first enter the Warrior-monk Yard to observe their temperament before they could become heirs. They therefore had a standardized hierarchy that prevented any overstepping of seniority. For instance, before the Zhen generation had begun, the eminent monks of the Xuan generation could only accept disciples on behalf of their masters if they took a preference to any disciple.

The situation back then was as such for Xuan Bei. The Wu generation had long ended, and the Xuan generation was nearing its end as well. Thus, His Abbotship had accepted him as a disciple on behalf of his other disciples, so as to maintain his seniority.

"Seven or eight years does not count as long. The eldest of the Zhen generation is only around twenty years old. Shaolin martial arts is also known for a solid foundation and a gradual progression toward a bright prospect. Oh? There is a Shaolin dropout from the Zhen generation ranked at number 33 from the back!" Someone shouted in surprise.

Meng Qi who had still been studying the introductions up front immediately snapped his head in the direction of the voice. His entire face darkened, and he mumbled under his breath repeatedly, "Thunder Blade Furious Monk, Reckless Monk, Thunder Blade Furious Monk, Reckless Monk..."

"Being able to take the lives of two Nine Apertured Master and fend off the attacks of another head on, Zhen Ding sure is a horrifying Shaolin dropout!" The young man with the hero cloth marveled, "And he can even summon Sky Thunder! How did such an outstanding talent end up as a dropout?"

"No idea, but judging from his nickname, this monk Zhen Ding must have dark skin, rippling muscles, staggering height and a waist at least eight feet thick!" The diminutive lady wore a certain expression on her face.

"Eight feet you're a$$!" Meng Qi was screaming profanities internally. Now he really wanted to change his course of travel and head over to the Luo Yang headquarters of Six Fan School to have a little chat with whoever had come up with that name list.

"Young sir, why are you zoning out?" The young lady had finished reading the introductions of every member on the Ranking List of Young Masters in one breath and was unusually content. She said, "As today is the fiftieth birthday of the Talent-accruing School's Headmaster, there will be a banquet held for the fellow members of Jianghu. How about we go and join in the fun? I heard 'Flying Cloud Sword' Huang Yun who has hopes of ranking will be representing Mount Qin Sword Sect to challenge their clan and fulfill his three-year promise of contending for the rights to temporarily keep the Outsky Strange Stone."

Since she had 'beaten' Meng Qi in their debate just now, she acted like he was a friend she had just been acquainted with. Of course, the premise was that Meng Qi was quite a handsome chap.

Hopes of ranking in the Ranking List of Young Masters, contending, Outsky Strange Stone, banquet... These words entered Meng Qi's ears and shook him up from within. He smiled genially and said, "I had the same intention."

He was the type who took pleasure in joining in the fun. Additionally, watching more competitions and exposing himself to various martial arts tricks would aid in his progress in the Nine Strategies Beyond the Swords.

Besides, the two nicknames hurt his heart too much. Only good food could soothe his inner turmoil!